Fall Faculty Salon Exhibition/Mike's World

Art teachers can do more than teach, as two companion exhibitions on the UT campus show

Arts Review

'Fall Faculty Salon Exhibition'

Creative Research Laboratory, through Sept. 29

'Mike's World'

Blanton Museum of Art, through Dec. 30


Sometimes a picture really does paint a thousand words. Take this picture, for example: A first-year studio-art or art-history student sits frustrated and sulking after a critique of his work by the class professor. Trying to jab back at the authority that suggested his masterpiece still needed a little more polish, he mutters, "If this professor knows so much about art, why is she teaching it instead of making it?" Of course, in the picture we're painting, we see that the student is angry, and his insult is juvenile at best. And while it may be just another snide remark, comments like this can reveal something of the perceptual split between artistic theory and artistic practice that affects art professors, art critics, curators, and artists alike. In a culture of increasing specialization, we expect art-history professors to be historians who leave painting, sculpture, and filmmaking to the artists. We expect artists to leave teaching to academics, and we expect critics to use their pens for word painting and nothing more. Sometimes, however, as in the student picture painted above, these roles fall under questioning and, thankfully, clean separations of skill sets rarely occur. When artists teach and teachers make art, the art world, as a collaborative mix of praxis and interests, is all the better for it. This month, Austin's art scene is reaping the benefits, as "Mike's World" at the Blanton Museum of Art and the "Fall Faculty Salon Exhibition" at Creative Research Laboratory demonstrate.

While the CRL show is something of an artistic buffet, the breadth of themes, methods, and mediums on display mirrors the diversity within UT's Department of Art faculty. The contributions by Bill Lundberg, founder of UT's transmedia department, are wonderfully provocative; they range from conceptual sketches to video painting and video sculpture, which engage and demonstrate the practice that situated him as a pioneer in contemporary film and video work.

In what is certainly a tribute to the slippages of character, artist, collaborator, artist-curator, and professor, "Mike's World: Michael Smith & Joshua White" traces the 30-year life span of Michael Smith's artistic production as his self-made character, Mike. The exhibition lays out the hopes and failures of this "everyday joe" who is looking for his way into the American dream via such entrepreneurial inventions as the board game Take Off Your Pants and the music lighting company Musco. Through Mike's failed business ventures, artistic mishaps, and borderline successes, the artistic collaborations of White and Smith are co-opted and co-opting boundary slips, which give this exhibition both its humor and its bite. While a large part of a professor's legacy lives in the work of her students, now is the time to see what other projects and progeny UT's art professors are producing.

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Fall Faculty Salon Exhibition, Mike's World, UT Department of Art and Art History, Michael White, Joshua Smith, Bill Lundberg

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